Most Gain Weight with Age Due to Aging Muscles

Our muscles shrink as we mature. How much energy we burn and how much we can eat without gaining weight is determined primarily by the size of our muscle mass. After the age of 30, on average, we lose about 1% of our muscle mass each year. So, if one’s activity level at age 30 is the same at age 60, we have to eat about 1/3rd less or gain weight. Most are aware that they are eating a bit less, but may not be aware of how much less active they have become. And remember that consuming only 100 calories (about half of a typical cookie or soft drink) extra a day over what you burn results in about 10 extra pounds a year. You really don’t have to be significantly overeating to be gaining weight, and obesity is the inescapable outcome of following the same diet and activity level over the years.

Reversing the Loss of Muscles

Use them or lose them. While it is not possible to experience the loss in number of muscle cells over time, exercising the ones that remain to make them larger and stronger can overcome the loss in numbers. Keep in mind that as we age, we may need to adjust our types of activity and exercise in order to maximize strength and minimize possible injuries.

It is also important to increase the protein in our diet as we mature. In middle age, on average, we need about 10% more protein than in our younger years in order to be able to maintain our muscle mass. Protein provides the building blocks for muscles.

Stress Level and Sleep Play a Role

To sum up the evidence, the more stress we don’t resolve and the less sleep we get, the more prone we are to experience various neuro-biological triggers to eat more and add fat to our bodies.

Middle-aged or Menopausal Weight Gain isn’t Inevitable

While your genetics may make it more challenging to avoid obesity, it is only one factor that can be overcome. What can you do?

  • Move more
  • Eat less
  • Check your sweet habit
  • Limit alcohol
  • Seek support

There are definitely hormonal changes that occur with aging that can contribute to the challenge for some.  There are medical practitioners both competent and incompetent available to offer advice accordingly. The best place to start is with your trusted, generalist clinician who knows you and the trustworthy sources of guidance in your community. In general, caution should be exercised if a guide is offering both the advice and the only source for the supplements and/or activities in support of their advice. If you want a 90% probability of getting bad advice, just search the web without a filter to determine what is legitimate information. It is important is to avoid suggested gimmicks, and quick fixes such as those promising to “boost your metabolism.” There is no easy, magic fix or temporary solution. The key is to develop new, permanent lifestyle habits over time that work for you.


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This information is the current, general opinion of the author and is not to be considered to be medical advice applicable to any specific individual. Points made are subject to change as more and better information develops over time.